GPs are not FPs in the US

General practitioners are not family physicians in the US.  The distinction is important for patient care, research, reporting and health policy. Read the new research that documents the important differences.

GP-FP Image

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Pursuing personal passion: Learner-centered research mentoring

A fresh approach to mentoring can empower new researchers to focus research questions with personal passion to create successful studies and sustainable careers.

Just published, this Special Article outlines how mentors can use the Pursuing Personal Passion P3 Learner-Centered Mentoring Model to help new researchers overcome the common challenges of finding and focusing research questions.

Phillips WR. Pursuing personal passion: Learner-centered research mentoring. Family Medicine. 2018; 50:7.

Mentors can use the P3 Interview tool to help researchers identify their key concerns and focus their interests into researchable questions that are aligned with their personal and professional priorities.

Built on the foundations of learner-centered teaching and patient-centered care, the P3 Mentoring Model can help researchers organize their curiosity into researchable ques­tions, successful studies and organized programs of scholarship.

The P3 Mentoring Model is particularly helpful for:

  • new researchers
  • early career academics
  • students and trainees
  • clinician-educators
  • community based researchers
  • generalist scholars

Download the complete article for free. Share with mentors and mentees. Post your comment.

William R. Phillips, MD, MPH, is Professor Emeritus of Family Medicine, University of Washington, and was recognized by the North American Primary Care Research Group (NAPCRG) with its 2018 Distinguished Research Mentor Award.
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Final Touches

Final Touches The art of care at the end of life.

Read the essay – Final Touches.


One of the great gifts given to us as family doctors is the opportunity to learn: about the lives of our patients, about the nature of health and illness, and—one can hope—about ourselves.

We learn our most valuable lessons from our patients and their families, particularly in working with them over time and through the transitions in their lives.

We had touched each other’s lives in an eternal way …
It helped me learn again the importance of time, the art of the question and the power of details.

As family doctors, we cannot overestimate the impact our patients have on our learning and our lives. We should not underestimate impact we can have on theirs.

Copyright ©2014 W.R. Phillips.
Used with permission. Originally published in:
Phillips WR. The Heart of the Matter. Washington Family Physician. 41(3):10-11, July 2014.

Read the essay – Final Touches

Please leave a comment. Thank you.

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Working at the Wheel

The family physician takes many turns though a life in practice.
Cycles through our patients’ lives and our careers.

….  Read more – Working at the Wheel


As the wheels of progress spin faster, steered by managers and lubricated by information technology, we must work to keep the patient always at the center. They deserve care that is better, not just cheaper.
. . .
What sustains us over the long run is the excitement of variety and the rewards of continuity. It is knowing and growing with our patients and their families around the cycles, across the transitions and over challenges of their lives. We have the great privilege to share their joys and sorrows as we together turn, turn, turn through every season of life.
. . .
Vital parts of medicine’s future will come around from family medicine’s past. As the wheels of progress turn toward organized systems of better patient care, we must be at the center, surrounding the patient with care and radiating the power of the personal doctor.

Read the essay – Working at the Wheel
Please comment and share.

Copyright © 2014 W.R. Phillips. Originally published in:
 Phillips WR. Working at the Wheel. Washington Family Physician. 2014; 41(2):9-10. Used with permission.

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Family Stories

Continuity is a cornerstone of primary care and the essence of family medicine. It is comprehensive care over time and across problems that forms the fabric of our relationships with patients, families and communities.

Julia was one of my first patients….  Read more – Family Stories


It is comprehensive care over time and across problems that forms the fabric of our relationships with patients, families and communities.

Along the way we grew together, person and personal physician, family and family doctor.

Threads like these weave the tapestry of our practice lives.

Read the Essay – Family Stories
Please comment and share.

Copyright © 2014 W.R. Phillips. 
Used with permission. Originally published in:
Phillips WR. Family stories. Washington Family Physician. 2014; 41(1):13-14.

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55-Word Stories

Two high-risk children. The mom, just 13, working the streets, living chaos complicated by heroin and spirochetes. Yet, she cared for her new baby with confidence. She met my doubts with folded arms: “Who do you think took care of all those babies my five older sisters had? My Mama and me.” Hard-earned experience.
William R. Phillips, MD, MPH
Phillips WR. Life in 55 words. Family Medicine 2011;43(2):123-4.

 Never Alone
Captivated by the harmony, I sat outside the old man’s room. Generations filled it with their voices, summoned by the sons who had carried the patriarch in on a chair three days earlier. After midnight, the family filed out, all 17. “We’re just helping Grandpa cross over.” I entered and stayed until the journey’s end.
William R. Phillips, MD, MPH
Phillips WR. Life in 55 words. Family Medicine 2011;43(2):123-4.

Still of the Night
Just the doctor on-call for OB, I did what I could. The night was long and the labor hard. Mourning came before daybreak. Months later at the mall, we recognized each other, clothed for the first time. “Thank you for taking care of our little Ryan. We can try again next year, Dr Mackenzie says.”
William R. Phillips, MD, MPH
Phillips WR. Life in 55 words. Family Medicine 2011;43(1):45-6.

For information on the 55-word story format, see:
Fogarty CT.  Fifty-five word stories: “small jewels” for personal reflection and teaching. Phillips WR. Family Medicine 2010; 42(6):400-2.

© 2011. Society of Teaches of Family Medicine

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The Heart of the Matter

A family physician reflects on his own experience with open-heart surgery and the process of care in a top-flight academic medical center.

I am running on a treadmill. Perhaps you are, too. Your treadmill may be meeting productivity goals for patient visits, building a successful academic career or balancing work and family. Mine is a real treadmill, the kind that gets faster and steeper every three minutes. read more…


“It seems that the patient, the document and the clinician are growing apart.”

“…Delegation is replacing integration in our patient histories, and format is winning over content in our records.”

“Physicians and nurses now touch the keyboard more than they touch the patient.”

“…The documentation imperative now drives the clinical encounter.”

“The map is not the territory and the medical record is not the patient, even when it is on a computer.”

“If communication, touch and healing are to be part of our “best practices,” then we need to continue the search for ways to make the patient the focus of patient-centered care.”

“As we move our practices to team-based care, we need to make sure the patient sees and feels that the care team is real and that the team really cares.”

“When we work in teams we must be sure that, along with efficiencies, come feelings.”

Read the essay

Please comment and share.

Copyright © 2013 W.R. Phillips
Originally published in:
Phillips WR. The Heart of the Matter. Washington Family Physician. 2013; 40(4):12-13.
Used with permission.

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William R. Phillips

Some days I want to curse infernal
Invention of the learned journal.

Filling miles of lonely shelves
To busy wee indexing elves;

Inform, inspire, but oft instead
Stay still in stacks; lie long unread;

Consuming forests full of trees,
For tenure and advanced degrees.

Periodic publications,
Scholarship, pontifications,

Research, reports, and recent news,
Opinion, ads, and book reviews;

A journal though, when at its best,
Serves scientific minds in quest;

Circulates the world by mail,
And on electrons now can sail.

Authors pack in fact and finding,
Weaving words in weary winding.

Editors can polish prose,
But what it means God only knows.

In each paper lies a kernel
Seeking light, like truth eternal.

William R. Phillips

(Apologies to Joyce Kilmer and his poem, “Trees,” Published in Trees and Other Poems, London: George H. Doran Company; 1914.)

Read the Poem as originally published.

Copyright © 2003 William R. Phillips. Originally appeared in:  Phillips WR. Science Editor. 2003;26(5) :173. (September-October)

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Swimming Upstream

In our dedication to the underserved, has family medicine left the mainstream where we used to provide most of the care to most of the folks most of the time?

Family medicine has been swimming upstream for so long that we are leaving the mainstream behind. We are battling up tributaries, into the mountains and valleys. At the same time we are becoming an endangered species in the lakes and ocean where we used to populate the big waters, feed entire peoples and sustain healthy ecosystems.


“Family medicine has devoted so much of its energy to the needs of the underserved that we no longer meet the needs of the larger population.”

“… the Paradox of Primary Care Privilege: only the underprivileged have the privilege of having family doctors.”

“Everyone deserves to have a family doctor.”

“We need to establish caring relationships with people in power as well as with people in need.”

“If family practice doesn’t succeed in the cities, it won’t survive in the sticks.”

“… the irresistible power created by diversity, adversity, and unity.”

Read the essay

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Copyright © 2013 W.R. Phillips
Used with permission. Originally published in:
Phillips WR. Swimming Upstream. Washington Family Physician. 2012. 39(1):18-19.

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Learning by Write

Family physician writers were invited to explain, “Why I write.”

The practice of medicine is the management of meaning. The job of the physician—as master of diagnosis and therapy—engages us every day in observing and making sense out of what our patients show us and tell us. Our roles, as teacher, counselor, and coach, also call upon us to deliver information in ways that can help our patients understand what they need, change what they can, and cope with all the rest. We confront fear, manage uncertainty, and explain the unknown…. Read more.


“If illness is a narrative, then medicine is about listening and telling the stories we are privileged to hear.”

“Once written down, an idea can endure in spite of itself.”

“Practicing skills of observation changes our powers of perception.”

“Paying attention to the patient’s words and listening for their meaning is part of the power and the joy of medicine.”

“Maybe the clinical art of listening for heart murmurs has faded with the advent of echocardiography, but I am sure that no imaging technology will replace the art of hearing a patient’s pain.”

“Family physicians, particularly, have the privilege of hearing the whole story. If we listen closely, we can hear the stories that make us human.”

“As physicians, we have the privilege—sometimes the duty—to witness the suffering and courage around us.”

“Writing—like caring—is a signature skill of humanity.”

Read the essay.

See the other essays on “Why I write.”

Please comment and share.

Copyright © 20013 Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. Originally published in: Phillips WR. Learning by write. Family Medicine 2013;45(1):48-49.

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